Saturday, 30 September, 2023

Indian Ocean Conference: Rise of India and Bangladesh

Waliur Rahman

Indian Ocean Conference: Rise of India and Bangladesh
Waliur Rahman

Popular News

The two-day Indian Ocean Conference on May 12 and 13 is a landmark get-together of Nation-states with a singular goal. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar just came close enough to advise the world about the purpose and intent of the conference, but not saying everything. It was an undeclared coincidence.

Congress of Vienna was a meeting of the European Nations from 1814-1815. The congress set out a strategy to maintain ‘peace and stability’ throughout the European continent. It gathered following the first defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. Europe was never the same again.

The India Foundation, a Delhi-based Think Tank, organized the first regional meeting in Singapore in 2016. The last and the largest one took place in Dhaka on May 12 and 13, 2023. Heads of government, foreign ministers and ministries all gathered in Dhaka with only one goal: how to make sure the free passage of goods and services where the region’s oceans and seas account for 90% of world trade and 60% of oil transportation. The real value of the maritime trade has tripled in the past 15 years. The time has come for Bangladesh as a major regional power to join forces like India to build a peaceful, stable and inclusive Indian Ocean region.

The prime minister said despite many challenges, Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to more than 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. “This gesture avoided a major humanitarian catastrophe in the region. Now, we seek active support of the global community to repatriate the Rohingya people to their homeland in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Bangladesh has been a hub of maritime activities for centuries and it is active in many regional platforms, she said, adding that the country is the current chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and it is also the current president of the Council of the International Seabed Authority.

The Dhaka Forum provided a platform for delegates to place their requirement for the Indo-Pacific really meaningful. The United Arab Emirates Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs Saeed Mubarak Al Hajeri reiterated the need for such a forum to ensure peace and security. The Vietnam Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Do Hung Viet boldly pointed out fingers at a country defying the UNCLOS regulations! The Cambodian Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Soeung Rathchavy found Dhaka a safe forum for sharing Cambodian dynamics with the Conference. The Minister’s entire family was murdered by POL POT of the Khmer Rouge. She survived with another child. The Russians came to their rescue.

Every team leader had a story to tell, and they felt comfortable sharing their thoughts. Even the American participant got a forum to put forward their perception in preparation for the Indian Ocean Conference. The US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in her virtual presence reiterated the well-known American position.

The Indian team co-hosted with their Bangladesh counterpart the process seamlessly. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set the conference theme in motion;  Jaishankar and State Minister Shahriar Alam carried on the theme successfully towards the end.

The G7 summit being held in Hiroshima demonstrates both symbolism and substance. The venue represented an emphatic no to ‘Russian nuclear blackmail’ albeit tactical. Zelensky’s attendance added a new shine to the gathering. It seems that Ukraine may after all obtain the F-16 support and other sophisticated paraphernalia in the long run to deliver a decisive blow to the Russians. Besides shortening the tour has not gone unnoticed. Papua New Guinea ‘is a case in point: years ago, when I attended the CHOGM summit, the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister gifted a Tong used by the Prime Minister to the Australian Prime Minister Fraser, a TONG used by the Papua PM’s predecessors to pick human brains!

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit instead to sign an agreement to assure the Pacific nation of security concerns.

The Tokyo summitries have already swung up agreement on Ukraine and strengthened the Western anti-Russian phalanx. Attendance by some developing countries is an essential part of the present international country's position in the face of the Russian violation of Ukraine's sovereignty as an independent United Nations member-state. By this, a fresh attempt is being made to denounce the unilateral violation of international borders recognized by the United Nations.  


The writer is a researcher and columnist